African Parks Partners With Chad to Combat Elephant Poaching

In a week of wildlife conservation announcements coming out of New York, including CGI’s commitment to spend $80 million fighting elephant poaching, and the merge between Rare and The Nature Conservancy, the nonprofit organization African Parks (AP) added its news to the mix: African Parks is partnering with the government of Chad to launch the first national program to combat elephant poaching in central Africa.

This is no minor undertaking. The country of Chad has been absolutely ravaged by the illegal trade in ivory.

At an event this week at The River Club in Manhattan, hosted by African Parks, Chad’s President Idriss Deby Itno said his country “has been struck more openly and severely by this new poaching wave than the other countries in the Sub region.”

According to AP, 50 years ago Chad was teeming with 50,000 elephants; today the number is down to 1,200.

And inside its Zakouma National Park, which National Geographic once referred to as “a refuge” for elephants, the loss is equally staggering. In 2005, Zakouma was a cradle for some 4,000 elephants; this year, the number stands at roughly 450.

African Parks was founded in 2003, and has a distinctive mission within the crowded galaxy of wildlife conservation groups.

Armed with its motto “A Business Approach to Conservation,” its goal—in partnership with governments—is to successfully and fully operate a country’s national park.

This means AP is in charge of everything: the park’s finances, its security, infrastructure, tourism components, roads, law enforcement.

AP also intends to supervise each park for no less than 20 years (“We are accountable” for our actions, says CEO Peter Fearnhead).

Currently AP operates in six African nations and manages seven national parks, including Garamba National Park in Democratic Republic of Congo, Akagera National Park in Rwanda, and Chad’s Zakouma.

Not One Elephant Killed in Zakouma: How So?

AP took over Zakouma in 2010. After months of poaching under its initial watch, it seems that stability has taken hold: “For the last two years,” Fearnhead says, “not a single elephant has been killed within Zakouma National Park.”

AP attributes this success to a multifaceted strategy. First, the organization put satellite collars on 15 sub-herd elephants that automatically provide location information every four to eight hours. This information is fed into a central control center that can send out anti-poaching patrols to shadow the herds. Two aircraft conduct aerial surveys on a daily basis and nine extra airstrips were built to bolster the efforts.

Furthermore, AP has installed a network of telephones in surrounding villages so that anyone can call toll free in the event of any hostility toward not just elephants but also people.

The organization has also provided rangers with horses and weaponry.

Lastly, AP has formed a rapid response team that can react immediately to a threat.

Fearnhead says that that for the very first time in five years, baby elephants are now being sighted within Zakouma’s herd—a clear sign of success.


Elephants in Zakouma National Park, Chad. Photograph by Michael Nichols/NGS
Elephants in Zakouma National Park, Chad. Photograph by Michael Nichols/NGS


Although the public announcement of the national program came this week, the initiative to focus on the whole of Chad began this spring.

It started with arguably the most obvious action: a nationwide count of elephants. In addition to the 450 counted inside Zakouma, AP located another 450-600 individuals outside the park.

Some of these herds are as large as 150, others as small as six, and at least one elephant in each herd has been collared with a GPS device.

Location information is fed into the newly established National Elephant Monitoring Center based in the capital city of Ndjamena. This, Fearnhead says, means “we are able to constantly follow the movements of each herd. These satellite signals not only give the positions of the elephants but will alert us if one of the collared elephants stops moving.”

The Chadian government has committed 350 rangers to explicitly protect these remaining elephant herds.

It’s unclear at this time how successful the new initiative will be in stopping the country’s poaching epidemic. But President Idriss Deby ended his speech on Tuesday night by proclaiming that “you can count on my personal engagement and my willingness to make sure that the preservation of the environment will be one of the most important areas of work in the future in central Africa and particularly in Chad.”

Christina Russo is a freelance journalist. For nearly 15 years, she has worked as a producer for a number of public radio programs, including NPR/WBUR’s "On Point" with Tom Ashbrook. Christina also freelances for Yale Environment 360, where her written work focuses mainly on wildlife conservation issues. She is the co-producer, with WBUR, of the nationally syndicated documentary on American zoos, From Cages to Conservation. She has written numerous articles about animals, including a story about caring for donkeys in Ethiopia; a veterinarian saving horses in Sonoma County, CA; an elephant sanctuary in northern Thailand; and the work of pre-eminent whale biologist Roger Payne for her hometown newspaper, The Gloucester Daily Times.
  • Jeemar Mel Vilan

    It is really sad to know that the number of elephants in Chad is fast decreasing. I am hopeful that the Wildlife protection agencies and the local government will be able to solve the Poaching dilemma and get the appropriate numbers off the chart.

  • aparecido matos

    muito bom …..ok

  • Muhammad Ayyaz

    Park like Zakouma National Park, is a good effort for protecting the Nature, it should be every where in our World.

  • Gheorghe SIMA

    Sacred Treasure of Africa Empire!

  • Matilde

    Que bella noticia , los animales mas hermosos y amorosos , con una gran sensibilidad, en realidad todos los animales, son buenos .
    Esto es lo mas hermoso que he leido. suerte. un gran esfuerzo, para conservarlos , solo por un pequeño trozo de su cuerpo. Bendicones..

    «Considera a la Naturaleza como el más bello de los santuarios y como la expresión sobre la Tierra de la Perfección Divina. Respeta la vida en todas sus formas y mira a los animales como seres vivos, conscientes y sensibles».

  • Andrew Albanese

    Saddened by the how late in the game it, it is great that some humans are uniting together to work to save this Grand Species!

  • Antoinette Amegbletor

    Very gald measures are in place to halt this unfortunate problem of poaching. The demand source should also be checked, beause when there is no demand supply will not be there.
    Demand is certainly the driving force of supply!
    CITES should check all ivory exports!

  • Carol M.

    I’m so glad to read that in these areas with so much killing of elephants by money hungry poachers that the governments are taking a stand alongside the protection agencies already in place. It seems as though money is being spent, not just language used, to preserve these great, beautiful animals. I hope this trend continues and that the poachers are finally run off for good!

  • Kahsay G. Asgedom

    I do appreciate the effort of AP towards reversing the deep-rooted problem of poaching. This is something that needs to be replicated in other parts of the continent with similar problems.

  • Dilla

    Thank you for all you are doing

  • alam dareen

    very nice aideia ihope to go in..

  • Rodolfo Cano

    Please Save The Elephants, by not Buying Ivory Items or anything related to them

  • Mahamat Wakil Moussa

    To take care of animals in chad because is good in our country

  • Rosana

    They wouldn’t be going through this if some people in Asia didn’t buy Ivory trinkets. They are the ones to be blamed of this tragedy. But what to expect of a people who eat dogs alive?

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